Coping During Terrifying Times
Skills we can use to stay calm and grounded
By Sara Jacobovici
There is a difference between living IN terror and living WITH terror. Neither is a choice we make but one takes control away from us and the other allows us to regain some control.
The current wave of terror that is sweeping our nation is leaving fear, doubt, despair, anger, and frustration, in its wake. As we are trying to deal with it, the impact on body and mind is strong.
We’re being asked to cope and adapt. What does that mean and how do we do it?
Cope is defined as:
1. to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success
2. to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner
Sounds great but how do we put it into practice?
Coping skills are things we’ve developed over time; some work for us and some work against us. First thing to ask ourselves is; are these coping strategies helpful or just familiar? Don’t hesitate to ask others for help to cope with what is happening now.
Staying calm is a way of regaining control. How to find that sense of calm means understanding that it is a sense, sensory based, and influenced by our senses. It’s difficult to stay calm when we are vigilant; looking around us for anything threatening, hearing sounds that may signal a danger and so on. The way to calm our senses is to give those senses as many short breaks as possible.
When things feel out of control internally, focus externally by using your senses. Find a safe spot and look around you, identify all you see as familiar and comforting. Listen to some favorite music or just enjoy some quiet time in silence. Enjoy the smell of a favorite food cooking or baking, a lighted scented candle or incense, buy some fresh cut flowers and place them in your favorite spot. Work with your hands and touch the materials you’re using; cooking/baking, working with plants, using art materials or being involved in a project like building something. Enjoy the taste of your favorite food; spicy, sweet.
Remember to breathe. Stop often during the day to just take in a couple of deep breaths; in through the nose, hold for a couple of seconds and slow release through the mouth.
We are not in the norm and so we have to redefine it and create a new one. It’s called adaptation.
It is a chicken and egg situation; in order to adapt, one has to cope, in order to cope one needs to adapt. Where do we find the strength and wherewithal to do what is needed?
The two pillars of adapting to our current crisis are:
1. Making necessary changes to our routine while maintaining as much of it as possible.
Routine is a crucial structure in which we can continue to function. Common safety strategies prevail but activities, although modified, need to happen.
2. Finding outlets for the strong feelings that are raging inside of us.
Don’t stop having meeting with friends and having coffee together.
Don’t stop doing the things that give you pleasure and make you laugh.
Give your thoughts and feelings a creative outlet. Write; in a personal journal, blogs, letters to the editor.
Form or join support groups in your neighborhood or community.
You’re not in this alone. If you are experiencing any anxiety about physical symptoms, make an appointment with your family doctor and check it out. For the emotional tension, seek professional counselling support, either individual or group.
What all this means is you need to stay proactive. Keep doing, keep thinking, keep feeling, but most of all KEEP GROUNDED.